Thursday, October 31, 2013

Buy the Power of Bye-Bye

You’ve read the last word of an article about European travel. That last word is “Bye.” Next, you immediately turn your attention to an ad for skydiving lessons. Would that last word from the article make you more likely to buy a series of the lessons?
     Maybe so, since the article on travel could prime in you a spirit of adventure. Still, research from University of Miami and Virginia Tech indicates the effect of reading that last word in the article wouldn’t be strong. It might bring to mind images of moving vans, long-lost friends, and because of the theme of the article, maybe farewells as an airplane prepares to head for the wild blue yonder.
     However, none of those images has to do with the homophone of “bye,” the word “buy.”
     But, asked the researchers, what if the word “bye” is said to a consumer, rather than being read by the consumer? And let’s say the consumer’s mind is busy at the time, as may easily happen on a shopping trip. Then all of the tangential associations to the sound of the word could flood in. The probability of completing a purchase increases. “Bye-bye!” primes a “Buy, buy!”
     Of course, one of the other associations to “bye-bye” is an expectation to head for the exit. We’ll need to suppress that one in the shopper. Maybe say, “Before I say bye-bye to you, may I show you another item?”
     Words have the power to direct and to clarify. Researchers at State University of New York-Stony Brook, University of Minnesota, and Vanderbilt University asked people to remember sentences which at first hearing seemed to be nonsense. Example: The notes were sour because the seam was split.
     Adding only one word to the presentation resulted in dramatic improvements in memorization. The clarifying word was “bagpipe,” and now the sentence made sense.
     Here’s another example: The haystack was important because the cloth would rip.
     Can you figure out what that sentence means?
     My guess is that you can. I primed you, not with a homophone, but rather with the picture in this post and my mention of the wild blue yonder.
      Without those prompts, you’d find it much more difficult to make sense of the words.
     Profitable selling mobilizes associations made by the shopper. Recognize how the words and images you use can generate, for good or bad, associations you didn’t intend.

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Symbolize to Prime Purchase Intentions 
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stimulate Quick Thinking for Impulse Sales

You’ll frequently see impulse buy items in the areas where customers are waiting to pay for their purchases. Operators of those stores may assume that, when waiting, consumers have more of an opportunity to reflect on buying these items than when the consumers are moving through the aisles to gather their purchases.
     This assumption proves to be misleading, say researchers at Zeppelin University, University of Vienna, and University of St. Gallen. They collected functional magnetic resonance imaging responses to product packages in participants who, as a group, reflected a range of impulse-buying tendencies.
  • Package design substantially influenced how likely it was that an item would be purchased on impulse. 
  • When looking at the packages, those people most likely to buy on impulse showed high activity in brain regions associated with impulsive decisions for all areas of life. 
  • The impulsive shoppers showed low activity in brain areas associated with reflective thinking. 
  • Package designs which shoppers found to be attractive produced less evidence of reflection. So did package designs which shoppers found to be unattractive. 
     To make more impulse sales, stock package designs and use signage which stimulate quick thinking. Bright colors. Animation. Uniform sizes and prices. Easy access to the items. Waiting times long enough for shoppers to grab items, but not so long as to encourage reflection.
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania, Instituto de Empresa Business School in Spain, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands have added to the tactics for increasing unplanned buying by repeat customers who have come into your store with shopping objectives:
  • Encourage customers to set general shopping objectives instead of specific ones for their next visits. Do this in your advertising and in talking with customers (“Please keep in mind that we’re your store for every sort of party planning”). For shopping with general objectives, the jump in impulse purchases was about twice as much as for trips with specific objectives. 
  • Maximize your within-store convenience for fulfilling whatever objectives the shopper has set (“I can get almost everything right at that store”). In the research, this sort of store-specific convenience lifted the amount of unplanned buying more than 10%. 
  • Avoid unnecessary impressions of multi-store convenience (“After I finish shopping at this store, it would be easy to also shop at other stores”). When your customers decide to stop at a few different stores, they become less likely to make unplanned purchases at your store. 
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Win First Place As a Secure Third Place

Retailers who want their shoppers to linger longer—as in a bar—or require their customers to linger—as in a dog grooming boutique—might aim to create within the minds of those shoppers an image of what consumer researchers call “a third place.” This is an environment in addition to home and work that is appealing because it feels comfortable to the shoppers.
     Researchers at Université Paris-Est, Monash University, and Concordia University interviewed French consumers about those consumers’ experiences with restaurants, cafés, department stores, concert halls, and libraries. The findings from the analyses were that establishments which evoke certain emotions are most likely to become a third place for customers.
     A few of those emotions—such as authentic person-to-person interactions with the store staff—are what you’d probably expect. The store or shop doesn’t need to be fancy. Actually, a fancy ambiance can cause the whole experience to seem inauthentic.
     Beyond this, there’s another emotion which may not have sprung into your mind as important for “third place” awards: Security from intrusions.
     Other research finds that a shop’s physical arrangement influences feelings of physical security. Café seating which allows those who desire to sit with their back to a wall while doing people-watching. A women’s cosmetics section with alcoves in which the shopper can feel a sense of privacy. Waiting rooms insulated from the noise of barking dogs, car repairs, or emergency clinic hustle.
     Familiarity in itself relaxes concerns about physical security. Repeat visits build familiarity. On initial visits, familiarity may come about because of a principle of design common in a culture. In China, stores designed according to the principle of feng shui would be familiar, and therefore more comforting, to shoppers.
     In addition to physical security, there is the importance to consumers of protection from intrusive selling. In their interviews, the researchers heard customers talking about how pushy salespeople and overbearing signage disturbed the “third place” atmosphere. The people wanted a respite. To some degree, this third place is attractive because it’s a retreat from the demands common in those other two—home and work.
     The payoff in being a first place award winner as a third place destination is a strong emotional bond. The repeat customers will strive—including making personal sacrifices—to support the retail establishment in ways ranging from leaving bigger tips to staying alert to finding others to linger at the business.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Sleep Away from Customer Irritation

Ryanair does not want to disturb your deep sleep. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the airline has changed its procedures so the crew will take care to dim the cabin lights and refrain from all but safety announcements before 8 AM or after 9 PM on flights.
     This from the airline which was rated last month as providing the absolutely worst customer service among 100 British corporate brands. The airline that refused to waive the fee when a passenger asked for an earlier flight after he’d learned that his family had been killed in a fire. The airline whose CEO is said to have considered the idea of having passengers stand during flights, holding onto a subway-style rail, so more could be stuffed onto the plane.
     No wonder Ryanair passengers got irritated. And, no wonder Ryanair wants to help the passengers sleep it off.
     Other types of retailers may be unable to reply to customer irritation by inducing slumber. But they can still make use of “the sleeper effect.” In the 1970’s, psychologists gave that name to a phenomenon they noted in political campaigning: When the arguments for a candidate were convincing and the person making the arguments was irritating, the consumer would at first not be at all convinced, but after a period of time would forgot about the source and be persuaded by the message.
     Subsequent studies found that the sleeper effect works in a range of selling situations. Research centered at University of Illinois-Chicago Circle described the conditions essential to produce the sleeper effect. Here is my translation of the findings into the steps you—the retailer—can take to activate the sleeper effect when you think you’ve irritated a customer to whom you’d like to make a sale and an apology doesn’t do the trick:
  • Briefly state the one reason for purchase that you believe will be most compelling to the shopper. 
  • Ask the shopper if she has any questions you might answer. 
  • If she isn’t interested in making the purchase, say something like, “I know a purchase like this can be an important decision. Please think about it and then visit us again.” 
  • If you’ve contact information for the customer, wait one month, then send out an e-mail or postal mail invitation to come in to shop with you. To avoid reactivating unpleasant personal associations, sign the invitation with the store name, not your name. 
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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rescue or Strengthen?

In my “Retail Profitability Tactics” projects, I work with communities of merchants together. In that way, the participants can learn from each other as well as from me how to create and maintain for shoppers a destination projecting themed policies, practices, and experiences.
     Because my approach requires me to become thoroughly familiar with the neighborhood, the first step in each project is a SWOT needs assessment in which I consult the people who know the news. Small Business Development Centers. Business Improvement Districts. Chambers of Commerce.
     During my years of doing this, I’ve found that those wanting to help out retailers tend toward being Rescuers or Strengtheners.
  • Rescuers are drawn toward communities of merchants they see as in danger of failing. The interventions often consist of saving the retailers from themselves. This might mean teaching fundamental business practices, such as bookkeeping and inventory management. In contrast, Strengtheners train and consult with communities of merchants who have mastered business fundamentals and want to move to the next levels of profitability. 
  • In working with communities, Rescuers want to expend resources on the merchants who are most in need of help. It’s what I think of as a social services approach, concerned about equal opportunities and a safety net. On the other hand, Strengtheners take what I think of as a business development approach. They want to expend resources on those merchants most likely to benefit from the help. Strengtheners triage: There are merchants who are likely to fail no matter what consulting occurs at this point. Other merchants are likely to thrive without additional consulting at this point. Neither of those two groups are targets for the Strengthener. 
  • Rescuers perceive a need for continuing support of the retailer. They take on consulting assignments in which they’ll be easily available to intervene to catch a fall or to coach a flight for the foreseeable future. In contrast, Strengtheners aim for interventions to build retailers’ self-sufficiency. Strengtheners aren’t highly concerned with prolonged availability to the client. If a retail business finds itself using the same external consultant repeatedly to train staff, the Strengthener’s likely to propose that the external consultant teach a few of the business’s staff to do the training themselves. 
     When choosing a retail consultant, decide whether you’re wanting a Rescuer or a Strengthener. I find I do best as a Strengthener. But I know there’s a place for each approach.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lumber Through Forest or Trees

Sometimes your shoppers can’t see the forest for the trees. They’re concerned with the details instead of the overview. Consumer psychologists call these shoppers “low-level construal thinkers.”
     In a Journal of Consumer Research article titled “Selling the Forest, Buying the Trees,” researchers at University of South Carolina and University of Southern California identify characteristics of retail situations associated with shoppers going for the low:
  • The shopper has come into your store with thoughts of how to select the product rather than why to make the purchase. 
  • The main attributes of an item being considered for purchase are inferior to those of the alternatives, but the other attributes are superior by the shopper’s comparison.
  • The shopper is deliberating more about the process of installing or learning to use the product than about the payoffs from the product use. 
     By moving shoppers toward higher-level construal thinking, you increase the willingness of shoppers to pay more for merchandise. One method is to talk with the shopper about the longer-term.
     Then at the other end of the consumption cycle—the disposal of merchandise—there are times you might save some trees by saving the tree-level thinking.
     Researchers at University of Calgary and University of British Columbia explored how to increase the rate of recycling. They tried out two sorts of arguments with citizens:
  • Loss-framed, like “If you don’t recycle, we could run out of places to put our piles of trash.” 
  • Gain-framed, like “If you recycle, we’ll be better able to save trees and reduce pollution from manufacturing.” 
     The researchers paired each of these with either concrete “how to recycle” instructions or with more abstract “why we’re telling you about recycling” information. Both the how and the why influence consumers. But is one type of pairing better than another?
     The researchers found that the loss-framed arguments were most effective with the “how to” instructions and the gain-framed arguments were most effective with the “why we’re telling you” information. Effectiveness measures included the volume of material and the variety of materials recycled.
     The improved power of these proper pairings wasn’t a flash in the dustpan, either. It persisted for the six months that the researchers tracked results.
     The power of the loss/instructions pairing was even greater if the researchers talked about short-term results. On the other hand, the power of the gain/information pairing was even greater if the focus was on the longer-term.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Ward Off Wardrobing

Most retailers are familiar with the problem of people buying an item, using it once, and then returning it. Among the tales I've come across is the one of a woman who repeatedly purchased tableware and decorations for an upcoming party and then, after the party, returned them all to the store.
     When the items are clothing, a common name for the practice is “wardrobing,” although due to the effect on the retailer, I’m thinking “wardrobbing” might be a more fitting name.
     Another name for the practice is “serial returning.” Consumer behavior researchers at Northern Illinois University, University of Tampa, and University of Texas-Tyler call it URD for “unethical retail disposition.”
     The researchers were struck by the large number of excuses people give themselves to justify the practice and by the fragility of the reasons people give themselves for restraining from serial returning. A significant percentage of shoppers can be easily convinced to do it and experience little, if any, guilt.
     Those and other research findings lead to suggestions for you to reduce the extent of URD:
  • Let shoppers know you are aware of the practice and that it is often illegal. Bloomindale’s is now attaching to more expensive dresses highly visible tags which, if removed from an item, preclude an exchange or refund. Sales staff explain the tags’ rationale. This is one way to discuss wardrobing without directly offending a shopper. 
  • Help shoppers to avoid URD. Offer rentals and group purchases, where people will share an item. This addresses one of the causes of wardrobing—a desire among those with limited budgets not to seen in the same outfit repeatedly when attending special events. 
  • Be a part of the community in which you do business. This is more challenging for solely ecommerce retailers and large retail chains than for the locally-based store. But it can be done by all retailers, and it’s important. URD is more common when shoppers consider the retailer to be an outsider. 
  • Explain your pricing and merchandising decisions to customers. The Illinois/Tampa/Texas researchers believe that at the base of URD is mistrust of the retailer’s intentions in pricing and merchandising. Offering items at a range of price points can be helpful. 
     Liberal return policies are important. Customers become more willing to buy when they know they can receive a refund or exchange if things don’t work out. But the shopper who intends to return purchased merchandise is committing fraud on you.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fashion Profits by Thinking Bigger

About 65% of American women would be classified as overweight by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards. However, an ABC News feature this week says that only about 9% of retail revenues for women’s clothing come from sales of plus sizes. The feature attributes this discrepancy to a mistaken assumption by retailers that large women don’t want to dress fashionably.
     For men, the stigma against large is smaller. They buy “Big Dogs” T-shirts. And shops selling men’s apparel can put “Big” in the store name without alienating shoppers, while retailers selling plus-size women’s clothing stick with code words like “Lane Bryant.”
     Still, some men do hesitate. So there are retailers labeling trousers as a smaller size than the trousers really are. Debenhams, Next, and Topman in Great Britain were selling pants up to one inch larger than labeled. The objective is to have customers say, “I feel better about myself when shopping at that store rather than elsewhere, so I’ll make more of my purchases there.”
     Feet are getting bigger. Nordstrom Rack, Barefoot Tess, and are selling shoes up to size 15. Car companies are positioning pedals farther apart. Not to be left behind, toilet seat makers are enlarging sizes. Plus airlines sell extra legroom and elbow room.
     Contemplate how you can fashion higher profitability by meeting consumer desires for style in larger sizes. Recognize, however, that people buy things to help them become what they aspire to be. Most plus-size women and many plus-size men and children aspire to be thinner. As a rule, show models that are thinner than the members of your target market.
     Researchers at Tilburg University and Arizona State University found that when female study participants looked at moderately heavy models, the study participants began having unpleasant thoughts about their own weight. On the other hand, when the researchers showed images of moderately thin women, the viewers’ self-esteem improved. Better self-esteem generated by an ad makes people more likely to absorb and act on the advertising message.
     Profit awaits retailers who help their customers achieve physical comfort when using fashionable purchases. But the measures to achieve this are not always the same as measures taken to make customers feel emotionally comfortable about shopping for larger sizes. Overall, consumer psychology findings suggest that consumers enjoy seeing items modeled by people who are somewhat thinner, although not dramatically thinner, than they themselves are.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Make Allowances for Young Consumers

A recent PBS feature claims that America’s future economic wellbeing depends on children learning from others how to be savvy consumers. From early years on, give the kids some discretionary income and then let them benefit from experience. Parent educator Vicki Hoefle advises, “If you can trust them not to put the money in their mouths, you can trust them with an allowance.” Then as the children get older, require them to earn the money they spend.
     Retailers also can shape purchasing habits. In selling to children, obey the law, respect business ethics, and keep the children’s caretakers fully informed. Once you’ve pledged yourself to do all this, remember how children are a fruitful market. Boost your profits by choosing the right approaches to trigger children’s purchase demand.
  • Consumer orientation. Little consumers ages 3 to 6 like to classify products, such as by size, color, or function. Make it easy for the young child to figure out how a product is different from what she already has. For children from about ages 7 to 11, a trigger is value for money. With product comparisons in advertising and store signage, make the features or benefits list visibly longer for more expensive items than for the less costly ones. And for children ages 12 to 16, give them evidence they can use to convince their parents and themselves to buy, such as information about return/exchange policies. 
  • Brand awareness. A large percentage of children’s purchase desires include brand name. Research studies have estimates of that percentage ranging from 50% to 90%. And those research studies find that the degree of brand awareness grows as the child gets older. Brand awareness includes store name. Children come to favor shopping at certain stores. Make your store name a trigger for purchases by children. 
  • Dissatisfaction. As with their adult caretakers, young consumers tend to be promotion-focused or prevention-focused. The promotion-focused children want more and more. The trigger for them is an opportunity to add to their collections. The prevention-focused children want to avoid risks, such as losing social prestige. A trigger is showing them the current popularity of the item among groups the child wants to belong to. 
     Beyond spending wisely, there are two consumer skills retailers can help caretakers teach:
  • Saving for the future. Extend layaway to children’s purchases. 
  • Donating. In store partnerships with charities, consider which causes make the most sense to kids. 
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Generate Profit Possibilities Purposefully

For last Tuesday night’s TV watching, I had to choose between “Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle” about comic book creations of Stan Lee and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with a cast of Stan Lee creations.
     Stan Lee has been populating fictitious worlds with crime fighters since the 1940s, when he introduced Captain America to consumers who were consumed with World War II. Now 90 years old, Mr. Lee can take credit for Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and other highly profitable franchises. In contrast, he could be held responsible for the quickly disappearing Condor, Mighty 7, and Governator. Bloomberg Businessweek says Mr. Lee’s most costly flop was the Guardian Project, in which he created thirty superheroes for National Hockey League teams.
     “Coming up with characters is the easiest thing in the world,” Mr. Lee is quoted as saying. There are retailers like that, as well. They are “Give it a try and see what happens” people.
     Researchers working at Babson College, Innovation Associates, and The New York Times support this approach—but only for retailers who adhere to certain rules. Here’s my version of those rules, incorporating other research findings:
  • Act from purpose, not panic. In addition to freezing us into destructive inaction, panic at other times can cause premature action. Instead of thinking through the alternatives and selecting the least bad choice, the retailer moves too soon. 
  • Start with small steps using resources at hand or within easy reach before taking large steps which require stretching to acquire substantial new resources. Until you’ve achieved experience and momentum, aim for quick, inexpensive, incremental improvements rather than transformational change. 
  • Clearly state how much you’re willing to lose before you’ll pull the plug on the initiative. Agree with yourself that you might extend this limit, but require yourself to temporarily retreat from the project for a careful assessment before making any such extension. 
  • Anticipate danger. As you’re moving along the open road, look straight ahead most of the time. However, also scan for risks approaching from unexpected directions and take evasive action based on what’s happened to you in the past. 
     Stan Lee’s superheroes anticipate danger. They also are willing to revisit risky neighborhoods. Same with Mr. Lee himself. Bloomberg Businessweek reports his latest creation is Chakra The Invincible, intended initially for an audience in India. Nine years ago, an Indian version of Spider-Man lasted for a mere four comic book issues.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Miss Out Unless You Take the Myth Out

In the Myth-Fact Message Format (MFMF), the prospective seller first briefly describes an incorrect belief commonly held by members of the target audience, then promptly presents the correct factual information. MFMF is often used in health care and social marketing advertising campaigns. The myth that childhood vaccines cause autism is described, followed by the factual information that vaccines improve rather than disrupt health. The myth that most people with schizophrenia are violent is presented and then dismantled.
     MFMF is also potentially useful with face-to-face store selling. The salesperson describes to the shopper a common mistaken belief about the quality of a house brand, the advantages of online purchases, or the return policies of a competing store, and then corrects the myth with verified facts.
     However, researchers at Kent State University caution that the MFMF often results in better memory for the myth than for the facts. This was found to be most likely with consumers for whom the message has special personal relevance. In the case of the childhood vaccines message, it would be parents of young children. In the case of return policies, it would be the shopper who isn’t sure she’s making the right purchase.
     You might think that consumers who find the message to have personal relevance would be the most attentive to telling myth from fact. But if you’re thinking this, you’re believing a myth, according to the research findings.
     The researchers suggest using a fact-only format with the high-personal-relevance consumers. Other research indicates that a fact-myth-fact message format could work well.
     The more general issue is the problem with negation. Here’s an illustration: Which toothpaste dispenser would receive higher ratings from your customers: The one you describe as “not easy to use” or the one you describe as “not difficult to use”?
     Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern University, and INSEAD found that the “not easy to use” alternative receives higher ratings. All study participants were given one of two versions of a list of characteristics of the dispenser. The two versions were identical, except that one version included the “not easy to use” and the other, the “not difficult to use” phrase.
     The “easy” or “difficult” played a much greater role in the decision making than did the “not.” One group was evaluating the dispenser with “easy” in mind, while the other had “difficult” in mind.
     In sales messages, recognize what to omit.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Keep Shoppers Cool for Critical Thinking

“Cold hard logic.” This classic phrase suggests a relationship between lower temperatures and rigorous reasoning.
     Consumer behavior studies verify the relationship. Researchers at University of Virginia and University of Houston say the link is attributable to warmth-induced laziness. When the temperature rises, people seek shortcuts. One example of this the researchers discovered was a decreased willingness of consumers to take on complex gambles.
     Further, when consumers are cold, they seek warmth—both physical and emotional. Researchers at University of Colorado-Boulder and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology found that study participants who drank cold tea were more likely than those who drank warm tea to subsequently choose a romance movie over other sorts of movies. Similarly, when another set of study participants were asked to sit in a room that was cold, this increased the tendency to select a romance movie.
     Next, the researchers, wanting to plot out all the relationships between cold and romance, matched the dates of customers’ DVD rental records with the data on temperatures around the time of the rental. Sure enough, when it was cold, there was a shift from the horror flicks toward the romantic ones. I guess the enhanced chances of getting a bear hug when watching the creature features wasn’t enough to compensate for the shivers up the spine.
     The researchers note the connection between love and warm feelings in our songs and poems. When people feel cold, they like to be blanketed with romance.
     Studies at Purdue University, Tilburg University, VU University, and University of Milano-Bicocca indicate this is because lonely people are, in fact, physically colder. Experimental subjects who were rejected as suitable partners in a game showed reduced body temperatures, and lonely people reported feeling more comfortable when asked to hold a cup of warm tea or coffee.
     Researchers at NUS Business School in Singapore and University of Florida-Gainesville postulate all this is due to lonely consumers being mammals. From when mammals are very young, any sign of negative emotions produces a desire to be held close to get warmed up.
     In our northern hemisphere, the “lonely customer” effect is greatest as we approach the Christmas holidays, both because the weather is colder and because relations among family and friends gain prominence.
     If you’re wanting customers to depend on emotions, warm them up. But if you prefer cold hard logic, delay your professional-grade romancing for a while.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Entertain in the Showroom

Your retail store’s operating on a different scale than Las Vegas showrooms. The showroom at the Bellagio holds 1,800 people, the one at Caesars Palace seats 4,100, and Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s claims to be available for parties of up to 12,000.
     Still, your store and those showrooms do share a common objective: Entertain the consumer.
     That’s become a prevailing mantra for retailer Williams-Sonoma. Because Williams-Sonoma carries high-priced niche merchandise, they didn’t worry much about showrooming. This is the term applied to consumers coming into your store, draining the brains of you and your staff for advice and training, and then leaving your store to make the purchase online. Or maybe not even leaving your store, but rather using a mobile phone to scan the UPC code from a package on your store’s shelves and placing the online order while standing right there.
     Williams-Sonoma management figured their target consumers wouldn’t be able to find the $249.95 knives or $699.95 espresso machines online. They were right, but not in the way they intended. Shoppers didn’t find those or similar items at those prices. They found them online at substantially lower prices. Williams-Sonoma stores collectively posted same-store sales declines for five of seven consecutive calendar quarters.
     The answer was to up the in-store entertainment. “Retail is theater,” Chief Executive Officer Laura Alber was quoted as saying. For Williams-Sonoma, this meant more food tastings, more demonstrations of how to use the merchandise, and more cooking lessons from famous chefs.
     For your store, the entertainment might be of a different sort. Whatever it is, there’s another lesson from the Las Vegas showrooms: Consider having a cover charge. The Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colorado has charged $5 to attend book signings. At R. J. Julia in Madison, Connecticut, about 10% of the store revenue has come from charges for the approximately 200 annual events.
     Clothiers could charge for fashion shows, grocery stores for cooking demonstrations, sporting goods stores for celebrity appearances. The name “cover charge” fits especially well when the income covers the out-of-pocket expenses the retailer incurs in setting up the event and perhaps paying for the guest to appear.
     From a shopper psychology perspective, there’s evidence that charging a fee in itself lends value to the entertainment. When the price is zero, the consumer lacks a comparison point.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Slow Down to Show Off

Luxury segment retailer Hermes wants to peddle their newly introduced item all over the world and for you to pedal it all over town. A possible limitation is that the item costs about $11,000. That’s a lot for a bicycle, even a handmade one.
     Bloomberg Businessweek finds significance in the name Hermes has bestowed on the bike: Le Flaneur, which translates to “the stroller” or “the dawdler.” No sweat. Slow down. Show off.
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Southern Methodist University note how consumers of very high-end products often prefer subtle, not obvious, signals in their purchases. Consider sunglasses. The researcher’s tally found that about 20% of sunglasses selling for under $50 included a brand name or logo easily visible to others. This increased to about 85% when the retail price was between $100 and $300. But for sunglasses selling above the $500 mark, the percentage dropped dramatically. It was about 30%.
     So Le Flaneur appears to be intended for the $100 to $300 sunglasses market, the consumers who say, “If you want me to buy merchandise from you, show me an item or two I can show off to others, or merchandise that lets me show off grandly when I give an item or two to others.”
     Being handmade, Le Flaneur should be of sterling quality. Still, you’ll have shoppers who prioritize impressive appearance over refined quality. Turn those shoppers into regular customers by continually having the right merchandise prominently displayed. Stauer, the print catalog and ecommerce retailer of luxury items, describes how to do it. Owner Mike Bisceglia is quoted as saying, “We buy large stones with less clarity but at a better price. Guys like being able to afford a big, beautiful 50-carat ruby necklace.”
     Claiming you paid a good price is itself part of the showing off—although not to the recipient of the gift. Mr. Bisceglia is also quoted as saying, “There are all different levels of pearls, but 99.9% of people can’t tell the difference between a string of pearls that goes for a couple hundred dollars and the thousand-dollar pearls.”
     Researchers at University of Alberta, University of Calgary, and University of British Columbia found that many consumers lie when asked by friends how much they paid for an item, and the lies are much more likely to be in the direction of claiming a bargain than inflating the actual price paid.

Click below for more: 
Distinguish Show-Offs from Connoisseurs

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Saddle Up a While After Down

Let’s say you expect sales to continue growing for a particular item, yet turnover drops sharply. You’re stuck with surplus inventory, which eats into your profitability. Then after a period, when you’ve trimmed down carrying that item, sales pick up again, catching you in short supply. You miss out on sales, again eating into your profitability.
     When this happens to you, you’ve been a victim of the “saddle.” That’s the name researchers like those at Lehigh University and University of Southern California use to refer to a sudden deep drop of sales followed at a point later by recovery to the former peak. In a sample of 23 products sold in America, the saddle was seen in all but one of them. Understanding the dynamics of the saddle equips you to ride through the changes more smoothly.
     The Lehigh/USC researchers hypothesized three explanations for the saddle:
  • Business cycles. Ups and downs in the economy are inexorable. Perhaps the saddle’s dip occurs at the first economic downturn after product introduction. Then at the next upturn in the economy, the shape of the saddle is completed with improved sales. 
  • Technological improvements. A technologically sophisticated item will sell well. But news of the next generation will chill sales of the current technology, even before the next generation is available. Then when it does become available, two related factors can lift sales of the former-generation item. First, the price is likely to drop sharply, increasing demand. Second, consumers may learn from friends and product reviews that the fresh version is buggy. 
  • Diffusion chasms. Decades of research indicate that when a new product is introduced, sales depend upon adaptation diffusing through consumers with a range of attitudes. Venturesome innovators say, “I want the latest features, even if all the problems with the item haven't been worked out yet.” Their influence flows to respectable early adopters, who say, “I want a taste of where the world is heading.” On to the deliberative early majority who say, “I'll buy after it's proven to reliably meet my needs,” and the skeptical late majority say, “Let lots of other people use it for a while before I buy.” This diffusion doesn’t happen smoothly. Whenever it stalls, sales drop for a while and then pick up later. Voila, the saddle. The stall is most likely to occur when about one-third of potential consumers for a product are using it. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Encourage Customers to Be Innovative
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Forgo the Holy Grail

The religious and mythological uses of the term “Holy Grail” refer to bowls, cups, and other vessels. Beyond its religious and mythological meanings, “Holy Grail” refers to something difficult to obtain which is sought after because of its substantial significance. Retailers seek the Holy Grail of marketing segmentation which would allow them to get precisely the right sales pitch to each potential customer.
     Two possibilities are the demographic and the psychographic. Age, gender, and income level are demographic variables which influence purchase decisions. Young adults have different shopping habits from senior citizens. Women have different preferences than do men, and people living below the poverty line have distinctive budgets.
     Psychographics are people’s personal values and the shopping habits affected by those values. A psychographic analysis by Toyota found that, compared to prospects for GM and Ford large trucks, the Toyota large truck prospects were more likely to dine at steakhouses, shop online, own golf clubs, and subscribe to Runner's World. A collaboration of researchers at Columbia University, Advertising Age, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that people most interested in buying fishing equipment also enjoy listening to Christian rock music and reading Southern Living. A psychographic analysis for the PowerBar sports nutrition line produced a recommendation that the products be displayed alongside personal grooming items.
     Researchers at University of Texas and Mindset Media set out to find whether demographic or psychographic variables are the Holy Grail. This was an ambitious journey. More than 45,000 consumers participated, and the consumer categories ranged from mobile phones to lottery tickets to newspapers to TV shows.
     The researchers found that demographics predicted better with television shows and psychographics predicted better with electronics purchases. More important than this, they were struck by how limited was the ability of either demographics or psychographics to accurately predict the best target marketing. The researchers’ suggestion is to use both in combination. When it comes down to it, demographics and psychographics are two ways of looking at the same thing. For instance, women generally have different personal values and shopping habits than do men.
     My suggestion goes beyond the idea of combining the two. I propose that you forgo the idea of demographics, psychographics, or the combination being ideal for retail marketing segmentation. Instead, get to know your customers as individuals whenever possible. That’s not the Holy Grail. Nothing is in retailing. But it’s as close as we’ll get.

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Refine Your Psychographics 
Assess Shoppers’ Cloaks of Confidence

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fry Frustration

A shopper who enters your store in a frustrated state could be a prime purchaser. Offer her what it takes to dismantle the frustration. But a shopper who becomes more frustrated while in your store is at risk of losing interest in buying. To fry that frustration, use what’s been discovered by researchers at James Madison University, University of North Texas, and California State Polytechnic University:
     Some people are, by nature, more likely than others to become frustrated while shopping. You’ve limited control over the reactions of the frustration-prone, but still can make a difference in these people by addressing four triggers:
  • Unfairness. Be sure that shoppers are served in turn and that the waiting time for each customer is as equal as possible. 
  • Disrespect. Every shopper feels entitled to respect. Take care not to minimize or disregard your shoppers’ expressions of frustration. 
  • Disappointment. If you can’t gratify one desire of the shopper, look for ways to gratify two others. 
  • Losing. Complete the transaction with the customer in a way that bestows a sense of crowning achievement. 
     Next, realize that consumer reactions to frustration vary widely. Frustration-aggression-displacement theory, which has inspired psychology studies for about 75 years, posits that if the frustrated shopper doesn’t strike out at the salesclerk, he’s at higher risk of striking out at his partner, kids, or dog back home. At the other extreme, more recent research finds that some consumers who become frustrated while shopping accept this as a necessary evil and move on. They self-fry frustration.
     Then recognize that asking a shopper to exert self-control can cause frustration. Researchers at Northwestern University and University of California-San Diego documented how study participants who convinced themselves to choose an apple over a chocolate bar as a snack became more likely to later prefer to see a movie about revenge than a movie missing that theme. Those who chose a reward of groceries over a reward for a spa session showed an elevated interest in looking at angry faces instead of fearful ones.
     Something as small as allowing the customers to ventilate their anger—but only briefly—can help when retailers ask shoppers to exert self-control:
  • Weight-loss programs keep their customers by convincing them to make sacrifices and then seeing to it that they do. 
  • Merchants who allow purchasers to pay off an item over time, such as on layaway, depend on the person disciplining themselves. 
Click below for more: 
Ventilate Frustration When Promoting Self-Control

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tax Ingenuity to Make Levies Less Painful

With political battles in full rage about the U.S. federal budget, I’m stepping toward the middle of the ruckus, arms outstretched, palms and fingers facing straight up, rotating myself around, announcing in a loud voice, “I can tell you would make people happier to pay taxes.”
     If anybody accepts the bait, I’ll say that behavioral scientists at Harvard University and University of British Columbia suggest structuring the levies so they seem more like charitable contributions. Show taxpayers how their money is being used to help others and give taxpayers more of a say in how their money is being spent.
     The second part of that is a challenge in a representative democracy. We elect our legislators to set budgets. Most of us don’t do it in town meetings. But the first part would require less ingenuity. The challenge is in influencing whom the taxpayers would derive happiness from assisting. Toward meeting this challenge, other study findings have suggested, portray recipients of program benefits as individuals and cohesive groups.
     Researchers at University of Michigan and London Business School analyzed funding activity on, a micro-financing site. On the site, photos and descriptions are presented of people seeking small loans for commercial endeavors. The researchers were interested in what happened with listings which included photos of a group of fund seekers. Some of these photos were judged in a preliminary study to show a group who looked tightly organized, as if ready to act as one.
     Those appeals were more quickly funded than the appeals in which the group looked loosely organized.
     The Michigan/London researchers also found that charitable donations to help poor children were higher when the children were described as belonging to the same family than when not.
     The pull is stronger if a consumer is shown a single attractive entity than if shown isolated individuals.
     The effectiveness of this technique does depend on the consumers’ culture. The Harvard/British Columbia researchers explored another aspect of taxation: Some citizens’ resistances to what they consider as a redistribution of wealth which destroys individual initiative. Studies find that people in countries with high taxation to fund generous public benefits tend to be happier than people in countries where that is less so. Citizens in Sweden and Japan are, on average, happier than citizens in Italy and Singapore.
     Selling the idea of taxation to a culture may require cultivating a broad spirit of generosity.

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Collapse to Soles When Asking for Money 
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Digitize & Personalize Gift Cards

The “2013 RSR Digital Gifting Report” gives top honors to retailers The Home Depot, Sephora, and Starbucks. Among the criteria used by CashStar to grade the electronic gift card programs were rich personalization capabilities.
     Starting in year 2007, gift card sales by retailers dropped sharply. This was disappointing, since gift cards are good moneymakers. The shopper with a gift card is more likely to browse your aisles than is the shopper without a gift card. At the least, they become better acquainted with the scope of your merchandise selection. At best, they’ll see a great many items they want, so they’ll spend some of their own money in addition to the gift card allotment. In addition, research indicates that when a customer purchases a product with a gift card rather than with other types of payment, the probability of her returning the item is lower.
     The gift card browsing does have a danger. Many gift card shoppers enter the store without a clear idea of what they want. Their objective is to buy something rather than to acquire the benefits of a particular sort of item. Help the shopper funnel alternatives. Otherwise, the shopper’s too likely to leave your store without making a purchase. Then, because of the frustration, he becomes at least a bit less likely to return to your store.
     It was the introduction of e-cards which rejuvenated gift card sales. They can be purchased and given all online. They can make use of mobile technologies. And personalization is easier for the retailer with a digital than with a plastic platform.
     Remember to allow gift card purchasers to individualize with a selection of themes—such as sports and travel—a range of colors, and enough space to write a message to the recipient.
     Then at the time of redemption at your store, remember to notice the customization. Use the information to guide the shopper toward the right items. Never miss an opportunity like this to learn more about your customer.
     CashStar explains that they’ve released their fourth annual report at this time because many gift cards are purchased as holiday gifts. However, industry surveys find that the most common occasion for gift cards is not the holidays. It’s in second place. First place is birthdays, and birthdays come on every page of your retailing calendar. Develop digital gift card programs with rich personalization capabilities for year-round profitability.

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Redeem Gift Card Profitability 
Help Customers Personalize Gift Cards 
Influence Who Uses Gift Cards

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Note Influence in Nontraditional Couples

A set of classic cross-national studies by researchers at University of Chicago and Belgium’s Catholic Universities of Louvain and Mons concluded that the relative dominance of husband and wife depends on the type of product or service being considered when the couple shop together:
  • Husband-dominant: Lawn mowers, hardware 
  • Wife-dominant: Children’s clothing, women’s clothing, groceries, toiletries 
  • Shared dominance: Cars, refrigerators, televisions, living room furniture, financial planning services, vacations 
     While making the decision, the man’s objectives are underpinned by a desire to ensure his individual specifications are met, while the woman’s objectives are underpinned by a desire to have the shared specifications of the couple met.
     Subsequent research described how these overall patterns differ by cultural background. Mexican-American couples are more likely than others to have husband-dominant patterns, while African-Americans are more likely to have wife-dominant patterns.
     Now another cultural category is ascending: Same sex married couples. Insights for retailers about that category come from recently published findings of studies based at Steinbeis University Berlin. The researchers analyzed patterns of purchase decision making in male homosexuals who have maintained committed relationships.
     They report that, compared to heterosexual couples, there is a greater frequency of equalitarian patterns. The partners are more likely to collaborate, or at least compromise, before making a purchase. This indicates that the retailer should prepare for decisions by gay couples to take longer on average than the same types of decisions made by heterosexual couples. This would especially be the case with items the classic research pegged as husband-dominant or wife-dominant.
     The Berlin researchers say that the sex-role orientation of each member of the gay couple showed no noticeable influence on the distribution of purchasing influence. However, as with heterosexual couples, the partner who brings the greater amount of money into the household does have greater say in how the money is spent.
     The newly paired may have already set up housekeeping and therefore made many shopping decisions together already. Still, shopping after the ceremony brings out different power dynamics. Each partner is subconsciously influenced by how his own parents handled the decisions. The challenge for the retail salesperson is to track the ritual, which is still in a formative stage.
     The long-married couple have settled into their shopping-together rituals. Here, the challenge facing the retail salesperson might come from the ritual being so automatic and quick by the couple that it’s challenging for the salesperson to discern.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Tell Shiitakes from Shinola

In a Wall Street Journal column, Farhad Manjoo pointed out the liabilities of self-service technologies (SSTs), in this case, self-checkout machines at supermarkets. Both the stores and the shoppers have discovered that one reason the lines are so short by the machines is that people don’t want to use them. It’s a major nuisance to communicate about what produce items are being purchased. To give a special twist to his point, Mr. Manjoo wrote that the machines, “can't tell shiitakes from Shinola.”
     SSTs might make retail transactions more pleasant for shoppers. Many people prefer to deal with the credit card slot on the gas pump than having to wait in line to hand the card to a human being who takes time processing the transaction. From the retailer’s bottom line perspective, SSTs can also trim staffing costs. This fulfillment format can extend the hours in which products and services are provided, benefiting both the retailer and the consumer. Another joint benefit is the reduced dependency of the shopper on retail personnel being available.
     But human beings are quicker and more accurate than SSTs at many tasks. In addition, consumers are often willing to pay to have others take over more work. With grocery retailing, the use of self-checkout machines may stall, but the use of drive-through grocery store pickup appears to be burgeoning.
     Researchers at Ohio State University and Australia’s Deakin University list ways in which sales completed with SSTs differ from those completed through conversations with a salesperson. The consumer must:
  • Be an equal partner with the retailer in completing the transaction 
  • Know how to use the SST system provided by the retailer 
  • Resolve problems with the transaction even when immediate face-to-face interaction with the retailer is not available 
     The last of these creates opportunities and dangers. What determines whether it’s an opportunity or danger, say the researchers, is the nature of any service guarantee assuring resolution promptly after a transaction goes awry. Proper service guarantees reduce consumer dissatisfaction, negative word-of-mouth, and store switching.
     With self-checkout machines:
  • Have an employee carefully watching who can swoop in to rescue frustrated consumers 
  • Be sure that employee can quickly resolve the problem by, for example, instantly recalling the product codes for not only shiitakes and portobellos, but also Shinola shoe polish and Shinola watches. 
  • Select and train that employee to coach customers on how to make best use of the SST 
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Serve Yourself to SST Guarantees 
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Learn From & Coach Other Businesses

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Optimize Inventory Iteratively

It’s easier to figure out what items to remove from your regular stock than to correctly determine what to replace those items with. You’ll probably remove slow sellers. But do you fill the gaps with more of what’s already selling well or with items you’ve not carried before?
     Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and McGill University developed a three-step procedure for deciding:
  • Identify attributes of items your customers are currently purchasing. For TV sets, attributes might include screen size, image resolution, LCD versus plasma, brand, and price. For car appearance products, attributes might include intended surface for the item, whether it’s for cleaning or polishing, how the product is applied to the surface, package size, brand, and price. 
  • Use your sales figures to estimate how well combinations of those attributes would appeal to your current customers. 
  • Find items which fit the most promising attribute-combination configurations and/or expand your stock of current items which are highly popular. 
     But when the researchers tried out their procedure in a tire store, they found it needed adjustments: As the available assortment in a store changes, the market shares for each item also change. People shift preferences.
     An example of this was seen in other studies, these at American University in Washington, D.C. and University of Arizona. Say a shopper comes into your store after having looked online at expensive ink pens. The shopper has narrowed the choices to two, both of which have an extra-fine felt tip. The only difference between the two is the ink color, which the shopper had decided is not that important.
     Then when the shopper asks for the pen with the blue ink, he’s told you no longer carry that particular item. He’s asked if he’d like to place an order, and he’ll be notified when the pen arrives. He declines. The salesperson—knowing the value of selling substitutability—offers the shopper the extra-fine felt tip pen with the black ink.
     But, like a majority of the participants in the American University/Arizona study, the shopper goes off in a different direction, such as purchasing a fancy ballpoint pen with blue ink. Because of the change in item assortment, the blue ink color becomes more important than the felt tip.
     The Pennsylvania/McGill researchers realized assortment decisions are iterative: You make changes and then use the three-step procedure again, repeatedly circling back to refine your merchandise assortment.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Target Temporal Discounts

A major contributor to the motivational thrust from a price discount is the time limit on the discount. Another major contributor is the consumer’s attraction to what is being discounted. These come together in the customized temporal discount in which the price cuts are tailored to the characteristics of the potential shopper. Different people get different discount offers.
     It’s a common practice now in retailing, made easier by all the data we collect on our customers and readily available data analysis tools. Done well, customized temporal discounts are also quite profitable. Researchers at University of Miami, University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University found revenue increases between 18% and 40% compared to discounts which weren’t customized.
     To achieve maximum gains, their research indicates, follow two rules:
  • Carefully consider the interaction between time limit and item. Looking at purchase frequency, you might able to estimate when your customer’s likely to exhaust her current supply and so will be returning to your store to purchase more of the same. This would be a perfect time to send or hand to that customer a coupon for a discount on a brand which yields a higher profit margin for you. 
  • Limit who you include. Running the analyses consumes time and money, and only some of the people for whom you have information will spend more with you when you give them customized discounts. In addition, some people will avoid your store if they feel their privacy has been violated by you knowing their shopping habits so well. 
     Customized temporal discounts are an NBO tactic. Decide what product or service your customer will want before he himself knows. This way, after he completes the purchase of one item, you can guide him toward the best subsequent selection. Researchers at Babson College, Citibank, and Deloitte Consulting LLP refer to this as identifying the NBO—Next Best Offer.
     Recognize how shoppers’ preferences move in time cycles. Researchers at University of Utah and University of Iowa discovered that monthly paycheck cycles affect the types of merchandise consumers find to be most attractive.
     In the days soon after receiving a paycheck, consumers with full-time jobs become particularly interested in products and services which help them gain more than what they currently have. As the days after the paycheck pass, these same people are progressively more attracted to items which help them avoid losing what they have now. 

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Make Your Next Best Offer 
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Plant Advantages with Foliage

Incorporating live plants into your store interior offers advantages:
  • Open up denseness. Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Leuven explored the effects on shoppers of adding in-store vegetation. The strongest difference was in areas that were somewhat crowded with merchandise, had high traffic, or was visually busy. Here, the plants reduced stress for the shoppers. The sense of pleasure reported by the shoppers was more calmness than excitement. 
  • Introduce fragrances. Rather than candles or aerosol sprays, employ flowers and other plants to generate scents. Keep the smells faint and familiar, though. A classic finding in consumer behavior research is that odors influence buying behavior. When a smell hits our brain, it starts out its processing in the limbic system, which is one of the most primitive parts of the brain. We—and the people who shop with us—make decisions instantly and subconsciously based on smells. But that classic finding from laboratory studies has, over the years, not worked out as well as we’d hope when applied in operating retail stores. Why? Researchers at Washington State University and Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen found an answer in the degree of complexity of the fragrance: A simple scent increased shopper spending in a retail store, while a hard-to-decode scent did not. 
  • Portray genuineness. “Natural is much better than artificial.” Perhaps that preference resides within our DNA, so basic is it in the choices our shoppers make. It’s why green product packaging and store décor have a special appeal to our shoppers. Show consumers from throughout the world green product packaging and you'll probably hear descriptions like new, organic, healthy, and refreshing. 
     The attraction of nature is multifaceted. Some of the psychology involves simplicity and some involves adventuresomeness. The natural alternative feels simpler than the artificial one. That’s one conclusion from a study conducted by international advertising agency Euro RSCG Worldwide. Study conclusions were based on responses from 5,700 adults residing in France, the Netherlands, England, the U.S., Brazil, Japan, or China. In that study, about 60% of the respondents felt consumers should be more connected to nature.
     As to adventuresomeness, the Center for Culinary Development has noted how chefs at white-tablecloth restaurants are incorporating new flavors into their preparations by foraging in forests and along seashores. Why not have foliage positioned strategically in your store so your shoppers can also forage with their senses of sight and smell?

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Enable Acceptable Aggression

USA Today warns us that the distinctive toy store sound for the months ahead won’t be Christmas music. Nah, we get that every year. This time around, breaking routine will be the resonance of breaking wind.
  • Horri-Ballz from Vivid Imaginations emit the sound of farts when you toss them. 
  • The Prank Star Fart Piano from Skyrocket Toys enhances the rude noises with tonal quality from the diatonic scale. 
  • The Despicable Me 2 Fart Blaster adds a specially-designed banana odor to the fart noise, which is itself accentuated by a megaphone. 
     The target demographic here is boys more than girls, and one rationale for the marketability is kids’ desire to test the limits. I see another rationale as boys’ desire to express aggression paired with adults’ desire that this aggression be expressed in socially acceptable ways. Balls that fart when you throw them toward a friend or a wall. A megaphone which throws the sound itself. Pianos disgorging a boy’s visceral reactions to piano lessons. Polite society may not consider these as genteel, but will accept them.
     Consumers beyond childhood will also buy tools for the socially acceptable expression of aggression. Serving teens and young adults, there’s paint ball equipment. For adults with enough income, there are muscle cars. For those who can’t afford the muscle cars, there are bumper stickers.
     Researchers at Colorado State University found that drivers of cars with bumper stickers are more likely to honk, tailgate, cut off other vehicles, and express other aggressive behaviors than are drivers of cars without bumper stickers. Unexpectedly, this held true whether the sentiment on the bumper sticker was about aggression or acceptance. “My Kid Is an Honor Student” as well as “My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student.” “Visualize World Peace” as well as “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
     Moreover, the “bumper sticker aggression” showed up with window decals and personalized license plates. Consumers were using the personalizing of their cars to justify the expression of aggression in socially acceptable ways.
     Acceptable doesn’t necessarily mean safe, however. The Colorado researchers say that aggressive driving causes up to two out of three auto accidents involving physical injury.
     Therefore, you might want to choose a different approach: Sell items which ease aggression. University of Kentucky researchers don’t recommend that retailers peddle drugs, but did find that taking 1,000 mg of acetaminophen daily for three weeks measurably reduced aggressive thoughts and actions.

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Drop a Pill When Acting Like One?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Avoid Specific Feedback on Integrity Tests

Having been told an opportune holiday shopping season may lie ahead, many retailers are ratcheting up the hiring of short-term employees. Having been told about the prevalence of theft by seasonal employees, retailers are ratcheting up the use of integrity testing.
     Professionally-designed integrity tests do help predict the probability of employee dishonesty. Researchers at Manhattan College find that inventories which validly assess conscientiousness and agreeableness are especially useful. High scores on these two are associated with lower rates of workplace theft, absenteeism, tardiness, and uncooperativeness.
     However, if you use integrity testing to screen job applicants, give only general feedback on the results to the test-takers.
  • A Cornell University white paper concludes specific feedback to job applicants who fail the screening frequently results in them learning to fake out the test the next time. These people will use the information you’ve given them to change their answers so they’ll look better. That’s understandable in any job seeker and especially likely in people who, according to the test, have flawed ethics. 
  • These instruments do a better job of spotting people who are dishonest than spotting those who are honest. Telling a new hire that the test identified him as having high integrity could create an impression that, “I can steal a little and not be suspected.” What constitutes thievery may not be clear to the short-term employee. Borrowing tools from the store to work on projects at home and then returning the tools? Taking home samples left by vendors or merchandise the store management has discarded? Using computers in the back office for personal correspondence? 
  • The personality tests are good, but not perfect. Telling somebody, “We think you’re dishonest,” is psychologically damaging, invites retribution up to and including a lawsuit, and might very well be incorrect. 
  • Another limitation: Situational factors enter into employee decisions to steal. Severe economic deprivation, seeing other staff steal, and getting ready to leave store employment are among these factors. Researchers at Penn State Erie, Mercyhurst College, Benedictine University, and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company found that fast food employees in their sample said they’d be more likely to steal if leaving employment in two weeks than in two years. Integrity testing does a better job of evaluating enduring personality traits than reactions to situations. 
     When we deny applicants employment, it’s good to give specific advice to help them in the future. Yet not with integrity test results.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pop Up Sales with Pop-Up Stores

Each year, October’s the time for pop-up Halloween stores, here now, gone next month. But this year, October was also the month for a Marketing Daily posting which predicts increases in pop-ups year round, although still most common in conjunction with holidays.
     Pop-ups are stores which remain in business for a very limited time. In one case, a Target Corporation pop-up was scheduled to stay open for only four days. More recently, an L.L. Bean pop-up in Boston pulled away after two business days.
     Many retailers see the pop-up format as a way to woo shoppers by generating excitement. When you announce your pop-up widely to the media, people could still be asking, “What the devil happened?” when the store closes, and they’ll be looking for your next pop-up.
     The Halloween stores and those short-lived Target and L.L. Bean ones were in self-contained locations. You can also set up a pop-up inside your existing store. These installations went by a different name when, decades ago, Marvin S. Traub’s “Come to China” event at Bloomindale’s included an entire Cantonese farmhouse within the flagship Manhattan store. Now, according to the Marketing Daily post, Nordstrom is planning French-themed pop-up shops in eight stores and on their website.
     What do consumer research and retailing experience suggest as pop-up best practices?
  • The excitement of the pop-up comes from both the short duration and the minimum notice before opening. Shoppers stay alert, looking for where you’ll make your appearance next. A pop-up isn’t a kiosk, which might move among locations, but predictably. 
  • It’s better to feature merchandise different from what you sell in your main store. You can peg it to a holiday, a special event in your community, or a special purchase you made. A longer-term advantage in featuring items different from the usual is that you can experiment. If an item sells well, you can start carrying it in your main lines. If it doesn’t sell well in the pop-up, those customers who did purchase the items won’t be irritated if they can’t find it when they visit your main store. 
  • Consider arrangements like a shopper’s fair or farmer’s market You might introduce new and improved items by having pop-up stores run by different retailers in partnership with you. Do select store-within-a-store participants compatible with the store image you want to cultivate. Realize this might be different from the image you have now. 
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Friday, October 4, 2013

Threaten Shoppers Craftily

Researchers at Victoria University of Wellington, University of Western England, and American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates sent threatening messages to students whom the researchers had identified as already scared. Not messages threatening to harm the students, you understand, but instead pointing out the possibly dire consequences of failing to seek help at the university counseling center to ease their anxiety.
     The threats didn’t convince the students to seek counseling nearly as well as playing to positive emotions. In certain circumstances, we can make a sale more likely by arousing in the customer a sense of fear—fear about the consequences of not making the purchase or buying into the course of action we’re proposing. But unless the fear appeal is crafted well, it could end up doing damage to your business.
  • Research at Universidad Pùblica de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain concludes that for certain shoppers in the world, fear sells, but for others, it’s a turnoff. How to tell which is which? Monitor the extent to which your shopper uses fear words themself. 
  • Raise enough fear of a real danger to win the customer’s attention and motivate action, but only to the degree that you’ve a guaranteed way to substantially reduce the risk. Don’t oversell. Researchers at Auburn University find that if the fear becomes too intense or if they don’t see a way out, shoppers becomes defensive and start thinking about why they don’t need the item you’re wanting to sell them. Or if they do end up making the purchase, chances are they’ll associate negative feelings with your store, making it less likely they’ll come back again. 
  • Pair the fear with regret (“I can understand why you’re sorry you didn’t make a purchase like this before the accident”), guilt (“I’m sure you want to do all you can to protect your family”), and/or challenge (“I realize the price is high”). Studies at Tulane University regarding health behaviors like using sunscreen and eating high fiber foods concluded that regret, guilt, and challenge increase the rate at which the consumer buys into compliance. 
  • Use legitimate fear appeals with older consumers. Seniors respond better to fear-laden sales messages than to purely rational sales messages, especially if the fear appeal is combined with appeals to positive emotions, like comfort, contentment, and relief. Emotional appeals also help elderly shoppers remember details about sources of sales messages more accurately. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Craft Fear Appeals 
Tamp Down Fear Points If Selling to Suppliers